FASD Awareness Day 2005 in Los Angeles

A message from Diane Kerchner, founder of CAL-FAS, posted in the LA Task Force Newsletter:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” said Mahatma Gandhi.  Canada’s Bonnie and Brian Buxton (author of Damaged Angels) and Arizona’s Teresa Kellerman were, and still are, change agents.  Collaborating together, they created an event on September 9, 1999, wherein the world stopped for one minute at precisely 9:09 am, and all paused for one minute of silence to pay tribute to all the souls whose lives have been forever altered by prenatal exposure to alcohol, so all could mourn the loss of IQ points worldwide.

In California, I asked Governor Gray Davis to proclaim the first ever California FAS Day on September 9, 1999, and he granted my request.  For the past two years, the California Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Organization (CalFAS) has hosted this event on the steps of our state Capitol Building in Sacramento.  Every year, more people join CalFAS there to silently honor the loss of capacity our state’s most vulnerable infant’s experience. 

This tragedy is worthy of note.  So much so, in fact, that last year the U.S. Congress proclaimed September 9, 2004, the first National FAS Day.  This year, the U.S. Congress has done no less. 

This event is rather unique; its goal is to eliminate the need for such a day.  The dream of every parent is that his or her child will succeed long after their parent has transitioned into the next life.  The dream of parents raising children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) is that not another child will be born who has to endure the ravages of alcohol in a developing brain.  We want to end FAS in our lifetimes, and in so doing, extinguish the need to host an FAS Day in California and in the entire world. 

Clearly, on this planet, we are a long way from seeing this occur today.  Therefore, secondarily, parents of individuals with FASDs seek taxation from alcohol makers and/or distributors to fund the expenses of care-giving for affected individuals.  However, to date, we have yet to see our government tackle this problem head-on.  In fact, our nation is only beginning to recognize alcohol for the teratogen it has always been, and face the fact that we have been irresponsible as a nation in dealing with the problem.  Not only have we been unable to prevent the numbers of alcohol-affected individuals from increasing, but we have been unable to identify a funding stream to pay for the numerous therapies and systems of care they require.  Instead, we have a history of blaming the alcoholic parents for creating “the problem”, and we have replaced nurturing with punishment in all systems of care.

Yesterday is the day we did this; today is the day we must change this immoral and totally irresponsible blame game.  We cannot, as a society, afford the brain-drain which alcohol is creating for us.  We cannot financially afford to continually ‘carry’ these individuals to adulthood and then through cycles of mental health hospitalizations, homeless shelters, criminal justice incarcerations, pregnancies and second generation individuals born with FASDs, etc. 

More importantly, our civilized society can no longer pretend that it is individuals who are responsible for this huge drain of resources.  We are not that ignorant.  No, it is not people, or a disease called alcoholism, which is to blame.  It is a legal substance which is marketed and even encouraged to be imbibed by people willing to throw IQ points out the window for the sheer momentary high they get while drinking. 

Please join me in celebrating FASD Awareness Day this year in Los Angeles County by silently honoring those whose lives have been impaired by prenatal exposure to alcohol.  Then pick up the phone and call to volunteer to help me stage a monumental event here on FASD Awareness Day in 2006.

Diane Kerchner



FAS Community Resource Center
FASD Awareness Day